Palestine defies USA pressure, and renews ICC push against Israel 'war crimes'

ICC is dead to us’ US to use ‘any means’ to shield citizens & allies from war crime probes

Jerry Lampen Reuters

The United States has threatened to prosecute judges on the International Criminal Court if it opens an investigation into alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan, calling the court "illegitimate" and "dangerous".

Bolton's remarks come almost a year after the ICC prosecutor asked to investigate alleged war crimes committed by US service members and intelligence officials who served in Afghanistan.

The State Department on Monday announced it will close the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) offices in Washington, D.C., arguing it had failed to take steps "to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel".

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said Monday the U.S. would refuse to cooperate "in any way" with the tribunal if it carries out a prospective investigation into allegations of war crimes by U.S. military and intelligence personnel in Afghanistan.

Among the responses, Mr. Bolton says, the USA would ban ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the country.

Key states spoke up to defend the ICC, which was set up in 2002 with jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute the world's worst crimes including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Bolton reportedly threatened to ban ICC judges and prosecutors from the USA and to impose sanctions on any funds they might have in the US financial system.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) has announced a fresh push against Israel at the International Criminal Court, a day after the USA said it was closing its Washington mission.

The move comes after Palestinian officials urged the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israeli officials for "war crimes" throughout the region.

In May, the Palestinian Authority submitted a referral to the ICC calling on the body to open an investigation into "settlement expansion, land grabs, illegal exploitation of natural resources, as well as the brutal and calculated targeting of unarmed protesters, particularly in the Gaza Strip". The national security adviser said it was no coincidence he made his speech on the ICC one day before the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Mr Bolton, who has been particularly vocal in his opposition to the court, attacked two areas of its work in a speech on Monday.

"We will not cooperate with the ICC". Pressure tactics have including the controversial move of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, in addition to slashing hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian assistance to Palestinian organizations.

"When will the global community say enough is enough & force U.S. to act like a normal state?" he asked.

The decision follows an extended period of estrangement between the Palestinian Authority government on the West Bank and the administration, which has already canceled most USA aid to Palestinians and recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

The Clinton administration signed the Rome Statute that created the ICC but had serious concerns about the scope of the court's jurisdiction and never sought ratification by the Senate, where there was broad bipartisan opposition to what lawmakers saw as a threat to USA sovereignty.

Palestinians have reacted with dismay to the USA funding cuts, warning that they could lead to more poverty and anger - among factors stoking their decades of conflict with Israel.

Although the U.S. does not recognise Palestinian statehood, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which formally represents Palestinians, has maintained a "general delegation" office in Washington.

President Donald Trump has shown strong support for Israel and criticized Palestinian leaders for not doing enough to work toward a peace deal.

Trump has promised to pursue the "ultimate deal" between the Palestinians and Israel.

The administration has said it's trying a new approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after decades of failed peace talks, chipping away at the Palestinians' key issues as it reshapes USA policy. He warned the ICC, which the U.S. hasn't joined, that it could face penalties if it "comes after us, Israel or other United States allies".

Meanwhile, late last month the US announced it is permanently cutting funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, or Unrwa, a primary source of Palestinian financial support for decades.

Now the pendulum is swinging back with a vengeance, as Bolton labeled the court "illegitimate" and "dead to us".

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